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Spring 2020

The National Center for Rural Health Professions, part of the UIC Health Sciences Campus-Rockford, strives to meet the health care needs of rural residents and their communities in Illinois, around the nation and throughout the world. Its programs include the Rural Health Professions Program, Illinois Area Health Education Centers Network (AHEC) Program, Student Pipeline Program, Native American Pathways Program, and the Global Health Partnership Program.  

 Dr. Alex Stagnaro-Green

A Message From Dean Alex Stagnaro-Green:

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

During this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, it's hard to believe just how much the world has changed in the last few months. For our health professions students, it has meant classes have moved online, most clinical experiences have been postponed and important events, such as graduation, have been celebrated virtually. For many of our staff and faculty, it means working from home, and for others it means working in clinical settings that continue to evolve to meet the ever-changing needs.

We know many of you are on the front lines of patient care, whether providing direct care to COVID-19 patients, or trying to manage your practice or institution in a situation that is unprecedented in our lifetimes. We are working to better understand the impact of COVID-19 in rural areas and we encourage you to share your experiences with us by sending an email to prrockford@uic.edu

On behalf of the University of Illinois College of Medicine Rockford, the National Center for Rural Health Professions and the entire UIC Health Sciences Campus-Rockford, our thoughts are with you and we wish you and your families health and comfort in the knowledge that we are all in this together.

Alex Stagnaro-Green, MD, MHPE, MHA
Regional Dean
University of Illinois College of Medicine Rockford 

Dalaman, Turkey, was the site of a February WHO meeting focusing on global rural health policies. 
Dalaman, Turkey, was the site of a February WHO meeting focusing on global rural health policies. 
Dr. Michael Glasser 
Dr. Michael Glasser 

Global Health Partnerships

NCRHP Director Helps Set Global Rural Health Policies at WHO Meeting

"Access to adequate health care, especially in rural areas, is a global problem and we can learn from discussions with experts around the world related to rural health workforce innovation, policies, planning and health service delivery," says Michael Glasser, Ph.D., director of the National Center for Rural Health Professions. 

A nationally known leader in rural medicine who is recognized for research on education and rural health policy, Dr. Glasser is also associate dean for rural health professions, the Dr. George T. & Mildred A. Mitchell professor of rural and family medicine, and a research professor of medical sociology at the University of Illinois College of Medicine Rockford.  

Dr. Glasser was able to share his expertise and work with others from around the world to develop rural health policies when he was invited to participate in the World Health Organization-sponsored Rural Health Workforce Attraction, Recruitment and Retention Guideline Development Meeting held in Dalaman, Turkey, February 25-27, 2020.

The meeting brought together 12 members of the Guidelines Development Group to deliberate and form policy recommendations on increasing access to health workers in remote and rural areas. The main outcome of the meeting was to produce a draft of the global policy recommendations to send to an external review group of the WHO. These recommendations will be essential in decision-making by the WHO in their consideration regarding funding for rural communities and rural-focused health professions programs globally. 

Dr. Dana Jungbluth 
Dr. Dana Jungbauer 

Dana Jungbauer Joins NCRHP as International Research Scholar  

The NCRHP is pleased to introduce the first International Research Scholar, Dana Jungbauer, MD. The international research scholar program was established in 2019 in an effort to establish a dynamic research program that highlights NCRHP’s global health research and partnerships. Dr. Jungbauer previously participated in a research rotation at the University of Illinois College of Medicine Rockford while she was a medical student at the University of Maastricht, Netherlands. The NCRHP and the University of Maastricht have been working together to promote student and faculty exchanges and collaborative research projects for over a decade.

"My name is Dana Jungbauer, and as of October 1st I have started as the first International Research Scholar at the National Center for Rural Health Professions. I am from the Netherlands, and during the summer of 2018 I did a research internship, part of the curriculum for medical school in the Netherlands, at the NCRHP. In July of 2019 I finished my medical degree and soon after I was able to start working in Rockford again. While finishing medical school, I realized I did not want to pursue a career as a physician, which made me very interested in discovering the world of research.

Part of my role is to finish and publish the research I conducted last year. I looked at the possible relationship between depression and social network with friends, family and neighbors in rural Illinois. While I am working on that, I will also be working on research previously done within the NCRHP, which has not been finished and published yet. The goal is to get multiple articles published during my year at the NCRHP. I am very excited to be working at the College of Medicine again and I am looking forward to all the great opportunities I will get to further develop my skills in research." -- Dana Jungbauer, MD

The NCRHP is a Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Medical Education and Primary Health Care. For more information about Global Health Partnerships, contact Dr. Michael Glasser at michaelg@uic.edu.


Rural Health Professions Program

Medical Students Match Into Residency Programs, Some Graduate Early 

Congratulations to the medical students in the Rural Medical Education Program who graduated this spring from the University of Illinois College of Medicine Rockford. Due to the COVID-19 situation, Match Day, Convocation, and Graduation ceremonies were all held virtually this year.  Some students who had completed their requirements took advantage of an opportunity to graduate early on April 10. Watch our Rockford Convocation Ceremony for the Class of 2020 and see all of our award winners listed in the Convocation Program here. 

Hana Hinkle, PhD, MPH 
Hana Hinkle, PhD, MPH 

Medical Students Have Opportunity for Introduction to Rural Health Course

Medical students at the University of Illinois College of Medicine Rockford can participate in a tuition-waived course through the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health. This course, IPHS 494 Introduction to Rural Health, will introduce students to topics related to rural healthcare delivery, health disparities and intervention development all with a focus on rural health policy. The course is taught by Hana Hinkle, PhD, associate director of the National Center for Rural Health Professions. Dr. Hinkle is also a research assistant professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the College of Medicine Rockford and a department affiliate of the UIC School of Public Health.

"While many of our medical students in Rockford are in the Rural Medical Education Program, we wanted to open up this course to all medical students so they understand the unique needs of rural settings when it comes to health policy," says Dr. Hinkle.

Within the Rural Health Professions Program is supplemental education for University of Illinois at Chicago medical, pharmacy and advanced practice nursing students and University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign behavioral health students. For additional information about this program, please contact Dr. Hana Hinkle, hhinkle1@uic.edu

As a medical student, Katie Weisshappel participated in a horse culture class ride. The red handprint on her face is meant to bring awareness to missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. 
As a medical student, Katie Weisshappel participated in a horse culture class ride. The red handprint on her face is meant to bring awareness to missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. 

Native American Pathways Program

Native American Pathways Program Student Completes Wyoming Rural Tribal Preceptorship

This past spring, fourth-year RMED/Native American Pathways Program student Katie Weisshappel traveled to the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming to complete her 16-week rural preceptorship. Weisshappel is an enrolled member of the Brothertown tribe of Wisconsin, who were relocated from New York to Wisconsin with her mother’s tribe, the Oneida. She elected to participate in the tribal preceptorship because she wanted to learn more about how other tribes manage their healthcare, as well as to serve and give back to a rural tribal community.

While in Wind River, Weisshappel worked under a family medicine preceptor at two tribal clinics and one local hospital. Through this experience, she got to witness first-hand how one tribe operates their Indian Health Service (IHS) clinics differently than the ones she was familiar with in Wisconsin. The Northern Arapaho tribe currently runs their own health clinics under a 638 contract with the federal government, “...which allows the tribe to have more of an influence over the care of their people over the sole federal government control that my IHS [clinic] has,” according to Weisshappel.

She also learned about how the local health systems handle continuity of care issues. “The hospital has a unique relationship with IHS, in that there is a strict IHS hospitalist to improve continuity of care and patient trust,” said Weisshappel. Members of both tribes are treated by this hospitalist when their care takes them outside the tribal clinics. A lack of continuity of care in Native health clinics is one of many reasons preventive care is commonly not sought by Native patients, so being a part of this sort of collaboration helped Weisshappel learn how to increase patient-provider trust in her future practice.

Outside her time with her preceptor, Weisshappel completed her Community Oriented Primary Care (COPC) Project with a local organization that connects community members with something that is revered within the region: the horse, through horse culture classes. The goal of the organization is to help participants strengthen their mental health resilience through strong connection to culture. Weisshappel met with participants to collect data on their experience with the classes and any influence participation has had on participants’ mental health. During her down time, Weisshappel enjoyed getting to know people in the Northern Arapaho community and exploring the state of Wyoming.

Weisshappel says that her four months in Wyoming has helped strengthen her resolve to serve a tribal community once she completes her residency. “My time at Wind River reminded me of why I initially chose medicine; to give back to the people who raised me and continue to guide me...I will hold this time dearly and use it as a reminder of where I hope to return.”

The Native American Pathways Program of the National Center for Rural Health Professions is designed to identify, recruit, support and graduate Native American students interested in pursuing a health professions degree at the UIC Health Sciences Campus-Rockford. Through this “grow-your-own” model, the program provides Native American students the support they need to return to their communities to practice medicine, pharmacy or nursing after graduation. Additionally, the program assists both Native and non-Native students with placement in a rural tribal community for their fourth-year preceptorships. For more information, contact Jenna Vater at (815) 395-5703 or jvater3@uic.edu.

 Reaching out to students
 College students from any university who are from rural areas around Illinois or are interested in rural health professions can get involved in a variety of NCRHP programs.

Student Pipeline Program

The NCRHP Cultivates Next Generation of Rural Health Professionals

Reaching out to high school and college students with information about health professions and opportunities in rural health can help get them interested in and better prepared for rural health careers. That's why the National Center for Rural Health Professions has a number of programs aimed at just that, from school visits by our Rural Medical Education Program recruiter Mark Meurer to summer programs, preceptorships and rural health experiences developed by Vicky Rhine, MPH, assistant director of external and pipeline projects.

One of the ways students learn about these opportunities is at college career and internship fairs such as Northern Illinois University's 2020 Spring Internship and Job Fair in Dekalb, Illinois. Held in February for current students and alumni, this fair allowed the NCRHP to recruit health professions students for multiple program opportunities, including those of the Illinois AHEC Network Program and the University of Illinois College of Medicine Rockford. 

"It's a great resource for recruiting participants for academic and extracurricular opportunities available through the National Center for Rural Health Professions," says Rhine. "Dr. (Hana) Hinkle and I talked with health professions students of varied professional backgrounds to match them with rural programs available across the state."  

For more information about Student Pipeline Programs and how you can help promote or get involved, contact Vicky Rhine at (815) 395-5854 or rhine1@uic.edu.

 AHEC Scholars logo

Illinois Area Health Education Center Network Program

AHEC Scholars Program Prepares Students for Health Careers  

Our health care system is undergoing rapid transformation. Shifts in the composition of the U. S. population, emerging crises such as the opioid epidemic and a variety of pressures faced by today’s patients require that we make fundamental changes to the delivery of care. We will need to adapt to these revised expectations, to the evolution in how care is delivered – and even in what we understand to be the meaning of health. AHEC Scholars is a national program designed to prepare students for these challenges and opportunities – and to ensure that they are effectively contributing as up-and-coming health professionals.

AHEC Scholars activities are limited at this time. However, applications are being accepted and full program activities will resume when COVID-19 emergency precautions are discontinued. The AHEC Scholars experience is a mix of enhanced learning – both online and in-person – and hands-on activities, including opportunities to shadow working professionals and complete internships and practica. Learn more.

The Illinois AHEC Network is composed of eight regional centers – in Carthage, Dixon, Fairfield, Gibson City, Mt. Vernon, Normal and three centers in the Chicago metropolitan area. The program office is located at the UIC College of Medicine-Rockford, with a satellite office at the UIC School of Public Health in Chicago. Illinois AHEC is funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration, the federal agency charged with training health professionals and improving health care for people who are geographically isolated, economically disadvantaged or medically vulnerable. For more information, visit https://ilahec.uic.edu/.


In Case You Missed It

Study Shows Higher Maternal Death Rates Occur in Rural U.S. and Illinois

A study published recently in the Archives of Women Health and Care shows substantially elevated maternal death rates for white mothers residing in rural areas relative to urban areas and serves as basis to advocate for systematic changes in those areas where mothers are at the highest risk.

The study, based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and a previous study by the National Center for Rural Health Professions, showed white women in rural Illinois were twice as likely as their counterparts in large central metropolitan areas to die from complications due to childbirth. Nationally, African American women have the highest maternal death across the spectrum from urban to rural, though numbers for African American women in rural Illinois were too low to calculate a rate. 

The research was conducted by Erin Hinckley, a fourth-year UIC medical student in the RMED program, and Martin MacDowell, DrPH, MBA, MS, a research associate professor and associate director for curriculum development for the UIC College of Pharmacy Rockford Regional Program and associate director for health professions education in the UIC College of Medicine Rockford's Department of Family Medicine and National Center for Rural Health Professions.

COVID-19 Testing Site Opens on UIC Health Sciences Campus
New RMED Grad Serves as Medical Operations Officer for Testing Site

A Community Based Triage, Testing and Transfer Site opened on the UIC Health Sciences Campus at 1601 Parkview Ave. in Rockford on April 24. The CBTTTS is a collaborative effort with federal, state, and local partners, including the National Guard, Illinois Department of Public Health, Winnebago County Emergency Operations Center and the UIC Health Sciences Campus-Rockford. Bringing increased testing to the Northern Illinois Rockford Region will provide crucial information on the prevalence of the infection in our communities. At a time when the region is experiencing increasing numbers of infection, the testing provides our communities with an opportunity to conduct aggressive contact tracing.

Medical tents on the campus allow up to 500 patients a day to be evaluated.

Recent RMED graduate, Mary DeFrance, MD '20, is very involved through her role in the National Guard. Dr. DeFrance was featured in local media coverage. View it.

NCRHP Faculty, RPHARM Alumni and Partners Featured in Illinois Farmer Today

Tackling COVID-19 challenges is the topic of an Illinois Farmer Today article featuring RPHARM alumna Elise Wildman, PharmD, a pharmacist at St. Mary’s Hospital in Marion County, Illinois. It also features Pat Schou, executive director of the Illinois Critical Access Hospital Network, who is a long-time partner of the RMED program. Read it.
Another Illinois Farmer Today article on rural communities' responses to COVID-19 featured UIC College of Medicine Rockford faculty member Hana Hinkle, PhD, MPH, who is associate director of the National Center for Rural Health Professions on campus. Two UIC College of Pharmacy alumni who were part of the Rural Pharmacy Education (RPHARM) Program offered by the NCRHP were also featured: Megan Asher, PharmD, and Elise Wildman, PharmD.  Read it. 
NCHRP Presents Award for Student Research Encouraging Excellence in Rural Health
Jarod Shelton and Jonathan Knisley, both medical students in the UIC College of Medicine's Rural Medical Education Program at Rockford, received an award for their research poster entitled The Growing Need of Rural Emergency Medicine Physicians. The Encouraging Excellence in Rural Health Award was presented by the NCRHP as part of Research Day 2020. This year, the annual campus event was held virtually. See all the Research Day posters.  
Check Out the New NCRHP Website
The National Center for Rural Health Professions recently launched a new website to provide more and better information about our many programs. Visit it.